A year before Gene Roddenberry’s stalwart Captain Kirk would take on ultimate computers and artificial intelligences controlling the lives of its subjects, a grizzled, film-noir detective/secret agent Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) who is undoubtedly kin to Blade Runner Rick Deckard, travelled the interdimensional roads (in a car) from the Outlands to the planet (?)/city(?)/dimension(?) of Alphaville on a mission to learn what happened to a previous agent and capture or kill the notorious scientist behind the city.
The 101 Sci-Fi films throws me right into the odd and experimental times that were the mid-60s.
It’s odd, unusual, interesting and has a surprisingly hopeful ending, one might even call it a Hollywood ending.
Caution, masquerading as journalist Ivan Johnson arrives in Alphaville looking for Henri Dickson (Akim Tamiroff), a missing agent, who had been given the same assignment Champlain is supposed to carry out. Finding him at a run down hotel, filled with Seductresses, third class, he learns what he’s already begun to suspect, that emotions especially those of hope and love are not only repressed, but practically unheard of; the words don’t exist, just check their bible!
Lemmy, who like a tourist takes pictures of everything, assumes the mission, hunting down Professor Von Braun (Howard Vernon) formerly known as Leonard Nosferatu (interesting…). He’s been assigned to find the professor and if he can’t bring him back to the Outlands, he has orders to liquidate him.
Von Braun has perfected the Alpha 60, the sentient computer that controls all of Alphaville from buildings to denizens, and Alpha 60 doesn’t approve of the illogical behavior of those in the Outlands, and has begun drawing up plans to destroy them.
With the aid of Von Braun’s daughter Natacha (Anna Karina), Caution takes on the system, trying to show that as illogical as people are, hope and love are some of the best things that define us as a species, and in the end it is those very things that save us.
Some of my favorite scenes features Lemmy verbally dueling with the Alpha 60 in an interrogation room. The troubling, deep voice of the Alpha which shares narration of the film with Caution’s inner monologue is truly disturbing, I don’t like it, it sets me on edge, but perhaps that’s the point, to make us aware that this being is unnatural, and though it may have awareness it doesn’t have the feeling that would define it as human.
As the film reaches its climax, and the world of Alphaville begins to fall apart, you realize just how dependent its inhabitants were on the system, they can barely walk, and offer almost no resistance as Champlain and Natacha try to effect their escape.
It’s an interesting film, and shows that not all popular science fiction cinema has to be about explosions, spaceships, menacing aliens and space opera (and don’t get me wrong I love all of those things!), that it can present bigger ideas, much like the best science fiction novels, and the best of Trek or Arthur C Clarke.
Have you seen it? What’s your favourite Godard film?